Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Rancid

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The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is rancid. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Rancid means “having an unpleasant smell or taste,” and is often used to describe food that is no longer fresh. It is also used to describe something (such as an encounter) that is offensive or distasteful. 

// A quick sniff is typically all that’s needed to determine if vegetable oil is rancid.

RANCID in Context

“At a basic level, ghee is a type of clarified butter believed to have originated in India as a way to preserve butter from going rancid in the hot climate. Churned cream or butter is simmered slowly until the moisture evaporates and any browned milk solids are removed, resulting in a sumptuously rich, fragrant and nutty fat.” — Aysha Imtiaz, BBC, 27 July 2022

Did You Know?

Rancid and putrid and fetid—oh my! While all three words are used to describe unpleasant smells and tastes, each also traces its roots to a “stinky” Latin word: rancid can be traced back to the Latin rancēre; the root of putrid shares an ancestor with putēre; and fetid comes from foetēre—all verbs meaning “to stink.” Not long after entering the language in the early 17th century, rancid also developed a second, figurative sense which is used for non-gustatory and non-olfactory offenses, as in “rancid hypocrisy.”

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